Skip to main content

Brown University decides against coal divestment

World Coal,

Brown University has decided not to divest from coal companies, commenting that it would not be the "right tool" to address climate change and that teaching and research are the most effective strategies.

The decision came after a long and deliberative process that included substantial input from several university committees, the campus community and months of discussion and deliberation.

In a letter to the Brown University community, President Christina Paxson affirmed Brown’s commitment to addressing climate change through education and leadership in campus sustainability, but said divestment from a group of coal companies is “not the right tool for achieving the societal goals to which we all aspire.”

The Brown University Corporation took up the question of divestment in response to Brown Divest Coal, a group led by students. The issue was reviewed by Brown’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policy (ACCRIP) and a committee composed of members with expertise in public policy, science, health, and financial markets. The decision not to divest from coal was made on Saturday.

Importance of coal

Paxson’s letter, which provides reasons for the decision not to divest, explains that while there was agreement that coal contributes to climate change, the severity is mitigated by the role that coal continues to play across the world.

“There is little doubt that we must reduce our reliance on coal,” Paxson explained. “But the practical reality is that today, coal is the source of approximately 40% of the world’s electricity and it provides needed energy for millions of people throughout the world. In many regions, there are serious technological impediments to transitioning away from coal. In addition, coal is used in the production of other products, such as cement and steel, which are central to the economies of both developed and developing countries.”

Campus sustainability

The letter also outlines a number of actions the university will take to expand its commitment to teaching and research on these issues and to campus sustainability.

In 2008 Brown committed to reducing emissions of energy-related greenhouse gases by 42% by 2020. The university is ahead of schedule in achieving that goal, having reduced emission by 30.6% as of this year.

Adapted from press release by Katie Woodward

Read the article online at:


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):